This weekends Horse Racing Race(s) of the Week get started a little early with 2013 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, which features runaway winner of her last Dreaming of Julia, as well as two year old champion Beholder and the unbeaten Unlimited Budget. The Oaks, of course, is a prelude to the greatest horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
The $1 million purse, Grade: 1 status and the prestige and history behind the race all make it one of the biggest races of the year. The winner gets a $600,000 purse and a large garland of lilies. (The race has picked up the nickname “Lillies for the Fillies.”). The Kentucky Oaks, run at 1 1/8 miles, goes a long way in my mind when voting for the Eclipse Award for champion three year old filly.
I like to do something a little different with these big races. For the Oaks on Friday, and the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, I will be looking at every horse individually…I will be breaking down their strengths and weaknesses and, like always, what kind of chances they have.
This year’s Oaks, like almost every year, is about as wide open a horse race as I’ve seen in quite some time. Out of the 11 fillies entered, about 8 or 9 have a fairly realistic chance of winning.
That being said, I have lots to go over so let’s get started.
Churchill Downs – Friday, May 3, 2013
Race 11 – 5:45 PM
Kentucky Oaks (Grade I)
Three Years Old Fillies
One And One Eighth Miles.
G L Stevens
T A Pletcher
G K Gomez
R E Mandella
T A Pletcher
B S Flint
Princess of Sylmar
M E Smith
T A Pletcher
J R Leparoux
K G McPeek
Dreaming of Julia
J R Velazquez
T A Pletcher
Rose to Gold
C H Borel
Flashy Gray (Scratched)
W I Mott
W I Mott
Analysis: (In Post Position order, selections below)
PP#1- Silsita- speedy gray filly is one of four….count them….four fillies entered in this race by trainer Todd Pletcher. (Pletcher has four of the 11 entered in this race and what looks to be five of 21 entered in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby…can you say “loaded for bear”?).
Anyway, of the four entered, this filly is clearly the weakest. Although usually on or near the front in the early stages of her three previous races (all vs. inferior competition than she will be facing on Friday evening), she has managed to lose ground down the stretch in each of the three. Somehow, she’ll have to over come a big step up in class and negotiate one sixteeth of a mile further than shes ever run before….20-1 on the morning line?….sorry but I wouldn’t bet her if you gave me 100-1….pass.
PP#2- Midnight Lucky- smashed maidens by 7 ¼ lengths in her Feb 16 (Santa Anita) debut while getting 6 ½ furlongs in a quick 1:15.1, then came back to set a track record at Sunland Park when blowing out (she won laughing by 8 lengths) her 7 other rivals in the Sunland Park Oaks on March 24.
So, basically, she is 2 for 2 in her career and won those races by a combined 15+ lengths. That, in turn, makes me wonder… exactly how good is this filly?…also, I know Baffert and I also know he does not enter his horses in races where they have no chance. In other words, I think he is excellent at placing his horses in the right spots.
She’ll take another class hike come Friday, but shows two good works over the track (April 22-6F- 1:12 and April 28- 5F- :59.3) and I’ll tell you what, she is no easy throw out.
PP#3- Beholder- 2012 two year old filly champion, by the gorgeous and wickedly fast Henny Hughes, is three-quarters of a length short of riding a five race winning streak coming into this race.
She does however have an excuse for that loss (it was her first start in 10 weeks and her first since winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly) as she may have needed that race.
That thought process was solidfied in her two last races when she came back to wire the fields (while never feeling the crack of Garrett Gomez’s whip in either) in the Grade:1 Las Virgenes and the Grade: 1 Santa Anita Oaks.
She went seven furlongs in 1:27.4 last week and trainer Richard Mandella sounds like he thinks she’s ready.
“We’ll get some good gallops in her (this week) and that’s enough,” Mandella said. “She’s had plenty of racing already.
“We don’t need to invent anything; just keep her happy. She’s done terrific. I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Mandella added.
Obviously a solid contender in this race, but just two things trouble me. A) she has never been this far in her career and B) she will, or should, be on or close to the early lead and, with a lot of other speedy fillies entered, she could face some serious early pace pressure which, in turn, could leave her vulnerable down the stretch.
PP#4- Unlimited Budget- is undefeated (4 for 4) and has been nothing short of spectacular in all four races.
This stretch running filly by Street Sense has been especially impressive while overcoming horrendous trips (extremely wide) in her last two races.
Although she’s run four races owner Mike Repole (and I for that matter) still think there is more to this filly than meets the eye.
“Her numbers are getting better after every race—whether they’re Beyers or Ragozin (speed figures).”I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her. She’s not only Unlimited Budget; I think she’s ‘Unlimited Potential’ too.”
I can’t find anything to make me think she’ll run anything but bang up on Friday and, to me, if they are going to beat this filly?….they had better bring their running shoes as I expect her to be charging hard down the stretch once again.
PP#5- Seaneen Girl- ran the race of her life while going “all out” to win the Golden Rod Stakes in Churchill Downs debut (her six previous career races were all run at Woodbine in Canada).
If you want to bet this filly, that’s about the only positive I can see (she took to the Churchill surface like a duck to water) because other than that, she looks totally in over her head in this field….next.
PP#6 – Princess of Sylmar- was last and some 11 lengths off the early pace in her career debut way back in October of 2012, but came with a furious stretch run to finish fourth and was beaten less than three lengths.
From there, and in her next four races, she’s been a monster including breaking her maiden by a whopping 19 lengths, walloping $75,000 optional claimers by 5 ¼, then winning a pair of $100,000 Stakes races in New York both by 7 lengths.
That brings us to her last race where she finished second to Close Hatches in the Gazelle Stakes (also in New York) after being wide on both turns.
Overall, I like her….I just like others more.
PP#7-Pure Fun- you can draw a line thru that last race (a 7th place finish in the Lexington-Coolmore Stakes) as it was against the boys in a race that I thought she really had no business being in.
But even throwing that race out, I’m not enamored by the just three wins in nine lifetime starts prior to that. ….pass.
PP#8- Dreaming of Julia- geez, where should I start with this filly’s accolades?…. From the beginning I suppose.
First off, this flat out gorgeous bay has super bloodlines (by A.P. Indy out of stakes winner Dream Rush).
On the track, she showed her talent by winning her first two races by a combined 27 lengths, then showed enormous heart in her third start when My Happy Face gave her all she could handle in Frizette Stakes, but she dug in and held on to win by a head.
After that, I don’t think she cared much for the (hard) Santa Anita surface while coming third in the BC Filly Juvenile.
She was then given 3 ½ months off and was brought back in the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream where she (not surprisingly) finished second. (She obviously needed that race).
But here’s where it gets interesting readers…trainer Todd Pletcher brings her back five weeks later where she absolutely annihilates her foes in the Gulfstream Park Oaks….she won by 21 ¾ lengths under a hand ride.
“The remarkable thing about (the Gulfstream Oaks) was she seemed to do it effortlessly,” said Pletcher, “She didn’t seem hard pressed at the end”
Since then…“Every indication she’s given us is that she’s trained just as well if not better for this race than she has for anything else she’s ever done” Pletcher added. “She’s coming up to the race in great shape and we just hope we can have a good trip with her.”
All that being said, here is the kicker….Dreaming of Julia ran an off the charts 114 Beyer Speed Figure in the Gulfstream Oaks while finishing the mile and an eighth race in 1:48.4…now…if you recall, the Gulfstream Oaks was run just four races before the Florida Derby.
The Florida Derby was won by Kentucky Derby morning line favorite Orb…but did you notice that in winning the Florida Derby, Orb scored a 97 Beyer Speed Figure and finished the same mile and an eighth distance in 1:50.4?…In case you’re not good with math, (and trust me, I’m no rocket scientist) thats 17 Speed Figure points and a full two seconds slower that Dreaming of Julia ran just a little earlier on the card.
That means if Dreaming of Julia was entered in the Florida Derby just four races and some two hours later, on paper, she would have won the Florida Derby by 10 lengths.
Now…tell me…how do you bet against her?
PP#9- Rose to Gold-comes into this off back to back “on the engine” wins in the Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes both at OaklawnPark.
But, like Beholder, I have to be concerned that she too will face early pace pressure. I like her too, but again, I just like others more.
PP#10- Flashy Gray- this aptly named filly (she sure is flashy looking) has been scratched due to a “badly timed” heel bruise she suffered during a May 1st gallop at Churchill Downs.
PP#11- Close Hatches- another unbeaten (3 for 3) filly, and from the top notch barn of Bill Mott, looks like she could make some noise in this race.
In her three starts, she came from well behind to break her maiden by 7 lengths, in her second start, she reversed running styles and went wire to wire against optional claimers and in her last race, she was much the best while leading all the way in winning the Grade:2 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct in New York.
In looking at in on paper, her best chance will be reverting back to her (very impressive) lay back off the early pace, maiden breaking win tactics.
1) Dreaming of Julia
2) Unlimited Budget
Midnight Lucky and Close Hatches
Good luck and thanks for reading…
Record: 9-22 = 41%
2012: 24-74 = 32%
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